Focus Kamloops: The Cowboys Acometh!

Poster for the 16th Annual Kamloops Cowboy Festival

The diverse landscape that occupies BC is impressive to say the least. It features everything from lush West Coast rainforests, dry deserts, snow-capped mountain ranges, soft sandy beaches and… cowboys of course!

March heralds a massive array of events for our Sandman cities among them including: International Women’s Day, Spring Break, Canadian Music Fest (Toronto), the Kiwanis Music Festival (Calgary), the International Festival of Film on Art (Montreal) and, of course, today’s subject: The Kamloops Cowboy Festival – ‘the largest cowboy festival in Canada’.

Paula Cole’s infamous question ‘Where have all the cowboys gone?’ might be easily answered with this enormous city event which features everything from cowboy yodelling, guitar picking, riding, song writing and poetry writing workshops and events. It also features equipment, art, music, theatre and talent shows – all of which get the very heart of what it is to be a cowboy (or cowgirl).

If you’re anything like us city folk, you might be asking yourself: ‘but what is a real cowboy anyway?’

Mirriam’s Webster defines the legendary figure as:

  • 1: one who tends cattle or horses; especially: a usually mounted cattle-ranch hand.
  • 2: a rodeo performer.

We also think the definitions: John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Jack Palance would also suffice.

So what does this cowboy festival really celebrate? The official BC Cowboy Heritage Society website says it has: “the objective to promote, encourage, establish, conduct and operate events and activities relating to the preservation of cowboy heritage in BC while fostering and developing community interest.”

And what is Kamloops history with cowboys exactly?

Well, considering that the word Kamloops comes from the Secwepemc First Nation’s word “Tk’emlúps”, (which means ‘where the rivers meet’), the city served as an important geographical hub for cowboys, fur traders and First Nation’s people who all inhabited the surrounding area. Located right where the North and South Thompson rivers converge, the area hosts a bounty of rustic wildlife such as deer, elk, salmon, and at one point, was even a hub for the great BC gold rush. With excellent terrain for farms, cattle and trading posts, it’s no surprise that cowboys flocked to Kamloops to get a piece of the action.

Of course, over time, technology has changed the roaming ways of our sunset heroes a little, but every year, for this event, those true to their rustic roots make their way to Kamloops to get in touch with that old Western flare. If you’re heading up that way and need a cozy place to stay, why not visit our Sandman Kamloops? They’re featuring a ‘pick-a-perk’ deal to help you save on gas, dinner or a complimentary upgrade (info here: Kamloops-Pick-a-Perk).

Whether it’s learning how to write song about long country-bound travels, discovering which stirrup suits your style best, or simply just finding out what makes a cowboy tick, this event has all the ins and outs for any cowboy, cowgirl or curious cow on-looker from afar.

Kathy McMillan, BC Cowboy Heritage Society treasurer says of the event: “This is our 16th year of the celebration and we’re hoping it’s a great success. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and make all the passes clear for some smooth travelling!”

And with that, we think it’s time to get your cowboy on — ‘Yee haw!’

For more information about the festival check out the THE BC COWBOY HERITAGE SOCIETY’s website:


The BC Cowboy Heritage Society:

The City of Kamloops Official Web Page:

Mirriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

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